Bengaluru: In what could trigger a huge political controversy on the status of Jammu and Kashmir, senior Congress leader and former home and finance minister P. Chidambaram on Saturday said that the Central government should consider granting a "certain degree of autonomy" to J&K.
"Barring a minuscule section of people in the Valley, who may wish to secede from the country, the rest of the state is not asking for independence but autonomy as per the Instrument of Accession. We had promised them autonomy but unfortunately, none of the successive governments at the Centre have honoured it. We need to honour the original agreement and can give a larger degree of autonomy to J&K," said Mr Chidambaram, while delivering a 'Manthan' talk on 'Saving the Idea of India,' in the City organised by Banjara Academy.
The veteran Congress leader said under the present circumstances, J&K is no longer one state. "Jammu is alienated from the Valley. Leh and Ladakh want to be granted the status of a Union Territory. It's time we engaged with the people of Kashmir. The valley is burning and the rulers don't seem to care," he added.
Chidambaram criticised the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and said that it should be amended to stop the alleged killings. "The AFSPA states that you can use force to the point of causing death. I tried to convince people to amend the Act to make it more humane when I was the home minister," he said.
Narrating the alleged atrocities committed under AFSPA Mr Chidambaram said one of his friends told him that a senior officer in J&K reportedly has a chart on his wall, which has the number of people, who were killed on that day. "This is happening in the rest of the country; from Assam to Uttar Pradesh. Encounter deaths is an official policy in UP and Supreme Court has asked the government to account for every killing in Assam," he said
The senior Congress leader said that the idea of India is in grave danger under the present dispensation. "India is a multicultural and pluralistic society, which is now under threat. We are turning into a republic of impunity. One must fear the law and not the law maker. There's no space for debate. The economy is in bad shape. There are no jobs. Exports and investments have nosedived," he added.
The former minister said if the Congress comes to power they would repeal Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code on punishment for sedition that has curbed free speech and would amend the Aadhar Act to restrict its use to subsidies, benefits and services. On the merger of banks he said that India should have bigger banks with bigger balance sheets....